The Monte Sano Preserve in Huntsville, Alabama, features a 20-mile network of several short trails, many less than half a mile long. The longest single trail in the preserve is the 2.6-mile Bluff Line Trail, though many people link several of the trails together for various loop routes. For example, many people take the "Bluffline Loop" route, which connects the Bluff Line, Waterline, Alms House, Old Railroad Bed, Tollgate, and High Trails for a 6.7-mile loop with a 970-foot elevation gain. For a shorter route of slightly less than two miles, you can make a loop with the Tollgate, Railroad Bed, and Alms House Trails only.
Both of these routes start at the trailhead on Bankhead Parkway. Another trailhead and parking site are located on 603 Cleermont Drive SE. One short loop you can take from this point of entry follows the Wildflower, Wagon, Alms House, and Sink Hole Trails for just over one mile. Do note that even though you can plan longer or shorter routes using the Monte Sano Preserve trails, many of these trails are rugged and involve significant elevation gain, as well as terrain that can be slippery and treacherous after a rain.
Many trails feature stream crossings. Some run past rain-smoothed boulders and waterfalls that cascade down beautiful stairstep rock formations. You'll mostly be in dense forest here and will enjoy lots of shade. The Land Trust of North Alabama offers guided hikes where you can learn the names of many of the wildflowers you'll find along the trail, which include Mayapples, Bloodroot, and Trout Lily. Important species of "relic plants" can also be found in the park, including American Smoketree, Morefield's Leather Flower, and Price's Potato Bean. Over 150 species of birds live in or visit the preserve and white-tailed deer are frequently spotted here.
Some of the guided hikes end at Three Caves, an old limestone quarry that was once used for movie sets and is now the site of concerts and other cultural events. There's a trailhead and another parking lot near the site.
There's so many things to see and do at this magical place that it's worth returning to the Monte Sano Preserve with your canine companion again and again.